Since the exact cost of items changes, this page gives you an idea of what to ask about and a way of calculating what to charge each person. It also gives you some ideas for options. As a leader you will want to calculate what parts of the trip you are paying for personally, if any.
Most airlines require a change in Europe. Sometimes the stopover is long enough for some sightseeing. Find out the possibilities of local transportation and tours or a hotel if it is an overnight stay. There are many different airlines so there will be some choice of city. Get a quote from the travel agent for your group and ask how many free tickets it includes. A few airlines fly directly to Tel Aviv or to an airport in a nearby country. Many groups fly to Amman, Jordan and then cross the Jordan River and take a bus up to Jerusalem. Flying straight without a stopover has advantages. You don't have to sit around a strange airport waiting for your next flight.
From Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem private taxis are expensive. There is a regular minivan (called a Nesher) to Jerusalem from Ben Gurion airport at a reasonable price. A half-day minivan or bus, arranged by a travel agent, may be cheaper according to the size of your group.
For transport during your stay you can book:
Minivan (up to 8 persons)
Minibus (up to 19 persons)
Midibus (up to 25 persons)
Large bus (up to 52 persons)
For a several day trip, such as to the Galilee, it pays to get a little more space. A single bus is better on long trips because it keeps the group together. If the group is small, public transportation (buses or shared taxis) can be used in Jerusalem and environs. The public long distance bus service in Israel itself is excellent if you are traveling in a small group.
Accommodations and meals
East Jerusalem hotels run from two stars to five stars and keep you nearer to the old city than many West Jerusalem hotels. There are also youth hostels and Christian guest houses. The price quoted will be per person in a double room and will include bed and breakfast. A 10% to 15% service charge will often be added. Full board means you must return for lunch and is not recommended. Half board includes breakfast and an evening meal and you may wish to negotiate this for only some of the days of your stay. The hotel will also charge a single supplement for those who will require a single room. Christian hostels and guest houses are usually cheaper than hotels but not always. Another option for church groups is a home stay with a Palestinian family for part of your visit.
Bethlehem has a number of very good hotels. Prices are usually lower than Jerusalem hotels. In Nazareth there are both hotels and religious guest houses. The latter are often the best places to stay. On the Sea of Galilee and in Tiberias, there are numerous choices from high rise hotels to kibbutzim to church hostels.
In major cities, good restaurants are available at reasonable prices so eating out is not prohibitive. When eating dinner in the hotel, drinks are not included and must be purchased by each participant even though the dinner may be already paid for.
Guide fees: per group per day: Check with your local contact about when they are needed. They may not be needed for the whole trip. Guides and bus drivers expect tips. This can be done individually or a certain sum can be set apart in the budget for tips. Make it clear to the guide and driver how you are handling it. If you are staying away from home base, you will also need to pay for lodging and meals for the guide and driver. Priests and ministers may act as tour guides without an Israeli license. Check the current rules.
Speakers fees and honoraria: This varies greatly so check in advance or allow $50 to $100 per speaker. If you are visiting an institution and expecting someone to brief the group or take them on a tour, plan in your budget to include a donation.
Entrance fees: Not every place charges a fee. If you are visiting several Israeli National Parks, consider buying a pass at the first park. It might be cheaper in the long run. Many sights, such as churches, are free but you are expected to give a small donation.
Lunches: You can save time and money by picking up bag lunches or each person can pay for his or her own meal when it is not a scheduled part of the itinerary. Bag (or box) lunches can be obtained from your hotel, if requested in advance. You can also visit a local deli and order sandwiches to take out. Buy fresh fruit in advance so it can be washed in your hotel room before leaving. It is also recommended to keep bottled water with you throughout the day.
Tips: You will need a general pool of money for tips at restaurants, etc. Have everyone donate a specific sum of money. Let one person handle these funds and at the end check with the group as to what to do with the remainder.
Calculating what to charge group members
There are two kinds of expenses - those paid on a per person basis and those calculated for the group as a whole. The airfare, admission fees, the accommodations and meals form the first basic per person figure. As group leader will you get a free ticket and accommodations? Unless the trip is subsidized by an outside agency, one free ticket and room per 15 to 20 paying ones is the going rate. Be sure you know which are the prepaid meals included in the travel agent's price.
Next add up the cost of ground transportation, guides, speakers and donations, and anything else that is calculated as a group expense. (Some travel agents calculate the transportation into their basic accommodation fee.) Divide group expenses by the number of paying travelers. (Not including yourself) If you are in doubt, use the smallest number of participants to divide the cost then give a firm figure and tell participants that this is the maximum. You can refund any money leftover from the trip.
When you present the cost to group members, tell them what it will cover and what they will need to cover themselves (e.g. passport, transport to and from airport in USA, drinks with prepaid meals, lunches or meals not included in fee, offerings for church services, souvenirs, phone calls, etc.).